It was, perhaps, a perfect show for everyone. A Bible story, gently twisted by Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice, bright costumes and even brighter lights, and a crowd of Culver City kids singing and dancing their hearts out. How could you stay away?
When I arrived the line was around the block. Walking past dozens of friends all lined up to see the Culver City Middle School production of “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat,” I wondered what it would take to sell out the Robert Frost Auditorium. They were only shy by a few seats, but every section was filled with families, friends and fans who came to enjoy a great show. That’s almost 1200 people, so it was no wonder it seemed as if all of Culver City was there.
The stage was almost as crowded as the audience, with 55 kids in the production, all of whom shone like stars. From the first musical number, “Jacob and Sons”to the mega-mix encore at the end, it was just pure fun. The audience rocked and screamed to Robert Washington’s absolutely priceless impersonation of “Elvis” as Pharaoh as he gyrated and walked into the audience and eve sat on one lap.
The last ensemble piece ended in the unveiling of a huge parachute type coat extension of the colors of the rainbow of Cameron DeFaria’s coat who played Joseph. No eye was dry during “Close Every Door, ” with Joseph in prison at the end of act one. The notable hilarious French beret performance by Oliver Berliner and his sidekick “brother” Thanassis Tetradis that took off in act two heard laughter all around the auditorium.
I almost had to gasp when I recognized Reno Behnken, seemingly four inches taller than he was in last year’s production of “Darn Yankees, ” and I still have a soft spot for Claire Skelley, who can sell a song from the middle of a chorus line. Seeing Alex Stewart in his biblical blues brothers black hat and glasses was a thrill, just like finding Katy Engel dripping with gold trim as one of the Pharaoh’s Girls. Seeing these kids reminded me why theater is important to all of us.
Not just for the fun, to sing and clown and get a big cheer. Not simply for learning to work together (a cast of 55? I can only imagine a lunch break with this crowd -) but to give these students the pleasure of doing something so far beyond what they’ve done before. That’s an incomparable education.
My biggest round of applause goes to all those parent producers; Bonnie Wacker, Diane Kunce, Elaine Behnken, Tania Fleischer and Jane Steinberg, and all the parents who worked so hard on the costumes, the sets and every other detail. Go, go, go Joseph. You all deserve the applause. None of this could have happened without the amazing (technicolor? ) Director Diane Feldman and the terrific choreography of Courtney Bradshaw. Fifty-five cast members, three acts, and an unquantifiable amount of fun.